State To Appeal Skakel Habeas Decision
Prosecutors contended Sherman's efforts far exceeded standards and that the verdict was based on compelling evidence against Skakel.
John Moxley, the victim's brother, said the ruling took him and his family by surprise and they hope the state wins an appeal.
''Having been in the courtroom during the trial, there were a lot of things that Mickey Sherman did very cleverly,'' Moxley said about Skakel's trial lawyer. ''But the evidence was against him. And when the evidence is against you, there's almost nothing you can do.
''I don't care if it was Perry Mason,'' Moxley said. ''The state had the evidence. It was his own words and deeds that led to the conviction.''
In his ruling, the judge wrote that defense in such a case requires attention to detail, an energetic investigation and a coherent plan of defense.
''Trial counsel's failures in each of these areas of representation were significant and, ultimately, fatal to a constitutionally adequate defense,'' Bishop wrote. ''As a consequence of trial counsel's failures as stated, the state procured a judgment of conviction that lacks reliability.''
Among other issues, the judge wrote that the defense could have focused more on Skakel's brother, Thomas, who was an early suspect in the case because he was the last person seen with Moxley. Had Sherman done so, ''there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different,'' the judge wrote.
During a state trial in April on the appeal, Skakel took the stand and blasted Sherman's handling of the case, portraying him as an overly confident lawyer having fun and basking in the limelight while making fundamental mistakes from poor jury picks to failing to track down key witnesses.
Santos argued that the prosecutors' case rested entirely on two witnesses of dubious credibility who came forward with stories of confessions after 20 years and the announcement of a reward. Skakel had an alibi, he said.
Santos contends Sherman was ''too enamored with the media attention to focus on the defense.'' Sherman told criminal defense attorneys at a seminar in Las Vegas six months before the trial that one of his goals in representing Skakel was to have a ''good time,'' Santos said.